LAFAYETTE TWP. — The Medina County Fiber Network, a $13.8 million project more than a decade in the making, will come to fruition this year.
Project collaborators converged Friday at the Medina County University Center to celebrate starting construction of the fiber optic network.
“This project is all about jobs and economic development. … It’s about business retention and it’s about business attraction,” Bethany Dentler, director of the Medina County Economic Development Corp., said at the ceremony.
The first users are projected to receive service in the fourth quarter of this year. The network is expected to be complete in early 2012, and will enable government entities, libraries, schools, hospitals and businesses to have high-bandwidth connectivity.Construction will come south from Parma and west from Akron, and next be connected along state Route 94 from Brunswick to Wadsworth. Working simultaneously, crews will take the network from Seville to Westfield Center and Lodi, and from Liverpool Township to Medina.
The network is the result of a partnership between the Medina County Port Authority and OneCommunity, a Cleveland-based private nonprofit that has worked on the project since December 2008.
Speakers at the ceremony lauded the collaboration of public and private entities to move the project forward, particularly during the recession.
County Commissioner Steve Hambley called the network “a public project that benefits private interests.”
“That’s really what economic development is all about,” he said.
In December, the Port Authority issued $14.4 million in 20-year revenue development bonds, including $5.3 million in Recovery Zone Economic Development Bonds, $7.7 million in Recovery Zone Facility Bonds and $1.4 million in taxable bonds.
The Port Authority also was the sub-recipient of a $1.6 million stimulus grant that was awarded to OneCommunity in August 2010. OneCommunity received a $44 million broadband stimulus grant that will extend high-speed service to 22 counties in Ohio.
“The funds generated after the bonds are paid off will allow us to create a new fund for future economic development,” Ron Paydo, network chairman, said.
Hambley said Medina County was passed over for projects in the past “not because it isn’t a good place to live, … but because we didn’t have sufficient broadband.”
Bob Joyce, chairman of Westfield Group, said the network will provide redundancy and increase reliability. Westfield Group employs 1,600 people and is the largest employer in Medina County.
“Every day almost everything we do is either through intranet or Internet,” Joyce said.
The project will create 218 jobs directly related to use of the fiber optic network, and 31 construction jobs, Dentler said.
Phase two of the project means connecting the network to public and private institutions, OneCommunity President and CEO Scot Rourke said.
OneCommunity will manage the operations of the network once construction is complete.
“Strategic planning for use of the fiber optic network is as important as having it,” he said.
That could mean more sharing of public safety dispatch services, and hospitals could utilize electronic records. Distance-learning could become more prevalent in schools. Small businesses could expand into other communities because “technology has no barriers,” Rourke said.
“We need to look at all our budgets and say, ‘how can we turn them upside down and work together for a lot less,’ ” he said.
Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.